and the Kid
By Eric Friedman
don't want to give you the wrong impression. I like Hector. He's
a good kid. A polite, well-behaved, well-adjusted kid. And that's
the problem. I'm bored of him. I didn't sign up to be a Big Brother
so I could get matched up with a good kid. I did it so I could get
matched up with a bad kid. A lost cause. Someone with pain and problems.
I wanted to make a difference. Maybe even be a hero. I mean, I believe
in doing good deeds and all, but I like to get a little something
out of the deal too. Like how I always pledge KCRW, but I wait until
they're giving away the really good premiums before I call in. (I
took the Chocolate City five pack.)
after a couple years of hanging with Hector, I don't feel like a
hero at all. He never asks me for advice, never confides in me.
His dad's not around, sure, but besides that, he's got a pretty
okay life. No pain. No problems. He's a happy kid. And his happiness
is making me miserable.
when the Jewish Big Brothers social worker calls and asks how things
are going, I tell her that I don't feel like I'm making a difference.
She says that I am even if I can't see it. That every time I take
Hector out, I'm giving him a day that's just for him -- a day where
he doesn't have to deal with his brother or sister or mom. Where
he's in charge of the car radio, and can open the sunroof if he
broke my sunroof."
"Oh. Well, hang in there."
months ago, I pick him up at his house. He's a wreck. Fighting back
tears. "Yes!" I think. "This is it. He's going to
tell me about his pain and problems." I wonder what could've
made him so upset. Maybe his mom hit him. Ooo, ooo, maybe his dad
came back -- and then ran away again! This is so awesome!
here for you, buddy. Whatever's bothering you, you can tell me,
and I'll help."
Pause. Then. (ALMOST CRYING) "My mom made me get my hair cut
really short and I hate it short!"
look, your dad probably -- What?" That's what's bothering him?
His dad abandoned him and he's upset about a haircut?
I'm clearly bummed, but I force a smile. I tell him his hair looks
good short. He says nothing for a long time. I turn on Power 106.
He doesn't even sing along with Ludacris when he says, "Move
bitch. Get out the way. Get out the way!" Apparently this haircut
bullshit is serious business.
him to his favorite restaurant -- Shakey's Pizza -- or as I call
it, the most vile eating establishment in L.A. It's even grosser
than the Erewhon supermarket. The smell of things frying makes me
dizzy, but it calms Hector down a little. He even manages to muster
up a few words in between bites of greasy, gnarly pizza. They have
some games in the back room -- again with the stupid games -- and
I give Hector some money to play with. After forty-five minutes,
he wins 11,000 prize tickets -- or enough to trade in for three
army men and a blow pop. Not bad for 12 bucks worth of quarters.
if he wants some ice cream, and for the first time all day, he forgets
about his haircut and gets excited. I take him to Cold Stone Creamery.
He gets a sundae with Gummi Bears mixed in. I get nothing on account
of Cold Stone ice cream gives me problems in the ass.
do a little bit where he pretends to bite the balls off of his Gummi
Bears and I do the voice of the Gummi Bear; "No! Please don't
bite my balls off. I really need my Gummi Bear Balls." Hector
cracks up -- kids like when you say "balls" -- and we
play this game until his bowl is Gummi-testicle free.
the ride home, Hector cranks up the Power 106, and raps along loudly
as DMX sings about getting a blowjob. When I pull up to his house,
I get out of the car to say goodbye. Hector starts to run off, but
then he stops, turns back to me and says, "Bye Eric. Thanks
for cheering me up today." And then he gives me a hug and sprints
towards his house.
I stand there for a minute, watching him go, and I smile. I guess
even good kids need heroes.
damn that is one stupid haircut!
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